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Italy’s busy summer lights fuse on coronavirus resurgence fears | Coronavirus pandemic News



Palermo, Italy – It is a warm summer night and crowds of young people flood into Vucciria, an old market in the centre of Palermo. There is excitement in the air, filled with the smell of grilled veal guts and sweet wine – but there is hardly any mask in sight.

“Here in Sicily, we felt the lockdown, but not COVID-19,” shouts Benedetta Matino, loud enough to drown out the buzz around her before having another sip of zibibbo wine from a plastic glass.

Just days before September rolls in, the coronavirus pandemic appears to be an afterthought for Matino, and many others in this southern part of Italy. The region has been largely spared of the brutal impact of a disease that has killed more than 35,000 people nationwide in the last six months, almost half of them in Lombardy, in the country’s north.

But that apparent complacency may not last. Official figures published on Friday showed an increase in the number of coronavirus infections for a fourth consecutive week across the country, hitting more than 1,400 on Thursday – that is as many cases as recorded in May.

The average age of COVID-19 patients is 29, with every region in the country registering infections following a summer during which Italians and foreign tourists were allowed to move around freely.

People without face masks take selfies in front of the Trevi Fountain following a government decree that states face coverings must be worn after 6pm in areas where gatherings are more likely [Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters]

The increase, however, comes along with an unprecedented testing effort: a record 94,024 tests were carried out on Thursday, a day when the number of new coronavirus-related deaths stood at just five.

“A pandemic spreads thanks to people’s movement, hence the increase [in the number of cases] after summer holidays and the easing of restrictions was predictable,” said Pierluigi Lopalco, a professor of hygiene and preventive medicine at the University of Pisa.

He warned, however, that Italy stood at a crossroads in its fight against the pandemic and urged vigilance to avoid a major coronavirus resurgence. “We are in the classic phase which is preliminary to a second wave; this is [like] the fuse that is lighting, hence we need to get all the ‘firefighters’ to switch it off now,” said Lopalco.

‘So many sacrifices, can’t throw them away’

Italy, a country of some 60 million people, paid a heavy price after the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus emerged in late February, going to count at some point more than 6,000 daily cases and becoming the pandemic’s epicentre.

In response, the government in March imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns including a ban on travel between regions and abroad. Shops, schools and places of worship were also swiftly closed, while people were told to stay inside as much as possible.

By May, however, the government had decided to begin rolling back restrictions in a bid to restore livelihoods and revive its battered economy, especially the key tourism sector which accounts for 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

At the time, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte acknowledged taking a “calculated risk” by easing the lockdown, while last week Health Minister Roberto Speranza described Italy’s current coronavirus situation as “a diffusion but not an explosion”.

Still, for those who survived but are still scarred from the first wave of the pandemic, the prospect of a major coronavirus resurgence carries a heavy mental and emotional toll – alongside the health risks.

“Who hasn’t lived through it, can’t get scared,” said Elisa Arcari. “I don’t think many [people] have heard all those ambulance sirens that I have, most [people] don’t have friends who left the house to never return,” added the 35-year-old, a psychologist from Brescia.

The town, together with neighbouring Bergamo, lay at the heart of Lombardy region where in March, an average of about 160 people died daily.

“We have made so many sacrifices, we can’t afford to throw them away,” said Arcari, feeling angry with those who deny the threat posed by the virus.

As for herself, she has not hugged her 65-year-old father since February out of fear of a possible infection.

No more dancing

While the government confirmed last week that a second lockdown is out of the picture, it has also moved towards imposing new restrictions following the summer surge.

Travellers coming from Malta, Greece, Spain and Croatia must now self-quarantine upon arrival. Dancing in nightclubs and outdoor public spaces, meanwhile, has been banned while face coverings in certain areas have become mandatory. 

Passengers queue to take new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests at Rome's Fiumicino airport, Italy, August 16, 2020, in this still image taken from video. Aeroporti di Roma/Handout via REUTERS

Every region in the country is now registering infections following a summer during which Italians and foreign tourists were allowed to move around freely [Aeroporti di Roma via Reuters]

“There is no doubt that the [health] system is more prepared, especially in terms of hospitals’ reception capacity in emergency rooms,” said Massimo Galli, the head of the infectious disease department at Milan’s Sacco Hospital. “But the question is to what extent are we able to handle the situation in terms of contact tracing at the local level – this aspect is still problematic,” added Galli.

Before August, authorities had been able to keep the epidemiological curve under control through contact tracing, but the government in recent weeks had to deal with a much higher volume of movement.

On Wednesday, health workers rushed to locate thousands of patrons of Billionaire, a popular nightclub on the island of Sardinia, after 60 staff tested positive, including owner Flavio Briatore, a former Formula 1 team boss. Approximately 3,000 people are believed to have gone through the club since the beginning of August.

Looking ahead, Francesco Iacchetti, a psychologist working for the northern town of Crema’s municipality, said the expected reopening of schools on September 15 is what worries him “the most”.

“I feel the health system is more ready to absorb new hotspots, but if schools have to close again [after a new outbreak], and old people – who often take care of children – are not available, then that would be a massive problem.”

Galli shared the apprehension about the imminent return of students to classrooms. “Strengthening local tracing is vital, and it will especially for schools’ reopening,” he said.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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